This post about page speed for SEO was written in December 2019 but published in February 2020.
With the decade coming to an end, the importance of page speed has come some way since Google first announced at the beginning of the same decade that it’s a key indicator in indexation (2010). It was also just a year ago (2018) that page speed was announced as a determining factor for mobile searches. With Google’s latest improvements to the Google Search Console by adding a speed report and fresher data. We should expect to see this continued trend into the next decade (2020) but with greater emphasis on mobile.
Page speed: customers are demanding it than ever before
It’s not just only Google recognizing the need but more importantly, customers are demanding it than ever before. In a recent study, page load speed was one of the top factors when shopping online in the US in 20171. Customers will not hesitate to opt-out of poor experiences resulting in poor engagement, higher bounce rates, and time spent on the page. Remember the times when you would close a browser because a site didn’t load properly, most likely page speed was a contributing factor. Page speed should be table stakes in the customer’s experience.
What is Page Speed?
Page load speed is not to be confused with site speed. Page speed is how fast the content loads on a single page, whereas site speed is the measurement of the collective speed of a number of pages for a particular site. Page load speed is also known as ‘time to first byte,’ which simply means how long it takes for your browser to receive the first byte of information from the web server.
Google uses ‘First Contentful Paint’ (FCP) and ‘First Input Delay’ (FID) to measure page speed. You’ll need to understand these two metrics if you use the PageSpeed Insights tool from Google below. First Contentful Paint measures the time when the browser renders the first bit of content from the DOM and First Input Delay measure the time from when a user interacts with your site e.g., clicking on a CTA button to when the browser can respond.
The facts don’t lie
Backlinko conducted a study where they analyzed 1 million domains and uncovered a strong correlation between site speed and SEO. In their findings, the difference between pages that rank in the 1st position to the 10th was only a matter of ~200 milliseconds2. For those that have an e-commerce site, its in your interest to know that Google’s own research has shown improving page load speed resulted in a 20% reduction in abandonment rate3. That’s huge – image all those customers dropping off as a result of your page taking too long to load.
The golden rule
According to Baclinko’s latest research analyzed over 5.2 million pages on page speed. The results were staggering! On average, the time to fully load a webpage took 10.3 seconds on desktop and 27.3 seconds on mobile. That’s 84.84% longer to load on mobile vs. desktop!4 The golden rule to optimizing page speed for search is to keep the page under 3 seconds.
There are plenty of tools out there, and most of them are free. Here are two that I frequently use. They’re both fairly straight forward, and each has its benefits. If you’re new to the game, check out PageSpeed Insights, but if you’re after something more detailed, then Web Page Tool Test is the way to go.
Hands down the best page speed diagnostic tool is Google’s very own PageSpeed Insights. The straightforward interface makes jumping into the world of page speed optimization less daunting. There are plenty of references to guide you through what each metric means. It provides a very detailed analysis but with simple and clear suggestions on how to help your page load faster. Since it’s Google’s own tool, it’s as accurate as you can get. One bonus feature is for anyone who has a WordPress site; it’ll recommend the right plugins to make it a whole lot easier.
Web Page Tool Test
If you’re after something a little more in-depth and that breaks it down by every millisecond, then this is the tool for you. The user interface takes some time to familiarize, but one benefit is that it runs multiple tests for the most accurate result. Depending on when you initiate the test, there were times I would notice slight discrepancies with the results. One other key feature that the Web Page Tool Test has over PageSpeed Insights is that it lets you test based on location, device type, and browser. It can be incredibly useful if you’re looking to make optimizations based on your audience’s location and behavior.
It’s our responsibility
Whether you’re a blogger or a business owner that manages their site. You don’t need to be an SEO expert or a web specialist to optimize your site’s speed. In today’s day, latency and site performance should be table stakes. The responsibility is on us to routinely check and optimize. Ultimately, it comes down to discipline and governance. Not just for SEO but essential for your customer’s experience.
Now you’ve got page speed down packed. Learn about why image file names matter for SEO. Read the post here.
- Important factors when shopping for a product online according to US shoppers 2017. J.Clement, 2018.
- We Analyzed 1 Million Google Search Results. Here’s What We Learned About SEO. B Dean, 2016
- User experience improvements with page speed in mobile search. G Wu and D Phan, 2019.
- We Analyzed 5.2 Million Desktop and Mobile Pages. Here’s What We Learned About Page Speed. B Dean, 2019